Wednesday, April 1, 2015

A Kiss at Calvary on Good Friday

I have imagined it many times. 
Especially as a teenager, on Easter Sunday, nestled in a pew between my brothers and sister.

I close my eyes tight and picture it there on the hill. 
I inhale and close my eyes, desperately trying to picture the scene of my Savior. 

Picture His cross. 

I wonder, what would it would feel like to be there, peering up at the carved out tree. To bravely move toward it and not be able to control my need to reach up. 

To touch the bottom of the cross. 
Fingering with my own hands the splinters He was feeling against his back. 

To see Him hanging there. 
Punctured and barely breathing. 
Grimacing in unspoken pain. 
A Savior draped between two thieves. 

My heart beats faster just trying to put myself there. 
To watch him willingly surrender with each gulp of air. 

To take in His sacrifice. 
His cross.

A few years back, on a cloudy, Friday afternoon,
 I caught a glimpse.  
A glimpse so moving, so profound 
that I pray the image will 
remain with me until I meet Him face to face.

And I pray my children will see my life changed. 

I felt a call to head there at three past noon, the hour of His death, even though this day has been busy. Really busy. It didn't make sense to go. We hosted an early morning Birthday party, wrestled a 17-month old at his well visit, got the bags packed for a holiday weekend. A friend, I now call her a sister, told me about this service and I felt a nudge, a quiet whisper from the Advocate who resides inside my heart. Go Jodi. Just go. 

How beautiful and how our God blesses our lives when we respond to the voice that is one with His. 

We went as a family, not really knowing what we were going to do. It's Good Friday, I told the girls, 
we will focus our hearts on the death of Christ. 

I had no expectations. 
Isn't that when God works the best in our hearts?

When we entered through the side door 
I looked up at the familiar scene. 

A barrage of a starry painted sky, the same image I saw when I walked down the aisle on my wedding day. 

Standing room only.
The five of us huddled together in the back. 
We shifted side to side. 
We could barely see the altar. 
The kids were restless. The baby was babbling. 
Lilli had to go to the bathroom. Lacey was dangling on my hip, constantly giving my cheek wet kisses. I closed my eyes to listen. Surrounded by strangers, I hung on every word of the Gospel of John.

 I got chills as I heard the story of Christ's eternal gift.

 I relived The Passion in my mind. 
My stomach felt sick.

If my first Catholic experience with Good Friday
had stopped right there, 
our trip would have been worth it. 
But there was more. 

An unexpected invitation.

Not just to ponder the Passion, but to touch His Cross. 
To silently make our way to the front, 
heads down in prayer.
To kneel down and place our lips at His feet.

As I stood to shuffle out of the pew, 
words came that pierced my soul.
Different voices, from the church choir loft above, 
solemnly read aloud 
the seven last words Jesus uttered as He bled for me. 

And as I heard the cries of the Messiah, I saw my sin 
with greater clarity than I ever had.

"Father, forgive them, they know not what they do." 
Lk. 23: 34

   I walked up the side aisle, 
pulling Lacey closer to my chest.
She wrapped her little arms and legs around me. 
She held on so tight. 

"Where are we doing Mama?" she whispered.

I chocked back my answer. 
"We are walking up to the altar. We are going to visit the cross to remember what Jesus did for us on Good Friday." 

And the words continued to ring out, echoing from the rafters above our heads. 

         "This day thou shalt be with me in Paradise." 
Luke 23:43

"You mean that He died? On that cross? 
Why did he have to die Mama?"

Her tiny voice broke with emotion, trying to understand. 

"He didn't have to honey. He choose to. For you Lacey. And for me. We didn't deserve it. We didn't deserve Him. 
But He loves us anyway."

"Woman, behold thy son." 19: 26-7

The line was snaking toward the front. 
We were halfway there. 
A beautiful choir started to quietly sing in the background.
The voices kept reciting the words of Jesus.

 "My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?" 
Mk. 15: 34

              "What are people up there doing Mama? 
Why are they kissing the cross?"

She played with my hair. She smelled so sweet. 
So innocent. 

"They are saying thanks Lacey. Thanks to Christ for His gift. Gratitude for His death. Acknowledgement that our lives would be nothing without knowing Jesus."

 "I thirst." Jn. 19: 28

There were just two people ahead of me. I closed my eyes, picturing my Savior, my Jesus, the Prince of Peace 
and Great I Am. 

I imagined him hanging. 
Dying for me. 
I was so moved that I wanted to fall 
at the foot of the cross.

 "It is finished." John 19: 30

"Are you going to kiss it too Mama?" 

She cupped my face in her hands. Used her tiny finger to wipe the wet off of my cheek. Her sweet innocence nestled against my great sin. 

"Why aren't you answering me? Mama?"

I nodded my head. Pulled her blond head closer.

I can't even describe or write to you 
what I experienced next.
I was suddenly unaware of anyone else in the Church, experiencing the presence of the Holy Spirit, 
the Advocate, in a mighty way. 

I could've cared less who saw me or if I made a fool of myself. It was just my heart at the feet of a dying Savior.
I felt in the presence of Christ. Pure peace. Unconditional love.

When it was my turn I closed my eyes again. 
Knelt down. Bowed my head low. 
And then I gently kissed the bottom of the cross. 
Tears streaming down my face. 

"Into thine hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit." 
Lk. 23:46

"Mama, why are you crying? What's wrong? 
Are they happy tears?"

I couldn't find my voice. 
Unable to fathom how the mother of the One who ushered in the New Covenant could watch her 
tender beloved hang and suffer like this.

How she must have loved him; loved this Savior whose death and resurrection would 
change mankind for all eternity.  

"Yes, baby. I am happy. Beyond happy and so thankful for what Jesus did this day, this sacrifice He offered because He loves us so much."

I left the service speechless. 
I wanted the moment to linger. 
I made eye contact with my husband. 
One look told me how moved his heart was too. 
I was fearful if I spoke I would forget what I just did. 
How my soul was just changed by how I saw Jesus. 
By how I saw myself. My need for a Redeemer.

I have always felt so appreciative for what my Savior did for me on Cavalry. But this year I grown so much closer to Christ as I have started to understand the intention setting aside an entire week to prepare for Easter Sunday. 
I am enthralled with "Holy Week". 
Lent. Holy Thursday. Good Friday. 

Gifts of focus from the Catholic Church. 

All new experiences for me. 
Meditating on His Passion has catapulted my heart into a greater longing for His Resurrection. It has really helped me to center my life on this sacred season.  

What a gift the Church has to offer us if we 
are willing to dive in. 

Dear Jesus,
 I am humbled. I am speechless. You leave me breathless. Your love for me, for my children, for my is so great that it makes me drop to my knees. 

Thank you for giving your life that 
I may live mine eternally, forever united with you.

Help remind the craziness of Easter dresses and egg hunts and preparing Sunday lunch that this all means nothing in the shadow of your Cross. 

I love you Jesus.

All my days, I am forever yours. 
Love, Jodi